SINGAPORE: Non-stop flights with Singapore Airlines (SIA) between Singapore and the United States are set to be resumed with the launch of the new Airbus A350 variant.
In a press release on Tuesday (Oct 13), SIA says it has 63 A350-900s on firm order, with the option to buy 20 more. Seven of them will be upgraded to an ultra-long-range variant. The A350-900ULR will have a range of up to 8,700 nautical miles and be fitted with “all-new cabin products currently under development”.
SIA also announced that it will exercise its option to order four more A350s, bringing total firm orders so far to 67.
Deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled to take place in 2018, enabling the relaunch of the non-stop flights between Singapore and both Los Angeles and New York. SIA said it is also considering non-stop flights between Singapore and other points in the US.
“Our customers have been asking us to restart non-stop Singapore-US flights and we are pleased that Airbus was able to offer the right aircraft to do so in a commercially viable manner,” said SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong.
According to SIA, the national carrier operated non-stop flights between Singapore and both Los Angeles and New York until 2013, when the A340-500s used for the service were retired. They were discontinued due to declining profitability. It takes between 16 and 19 hours to fly from Singapore to the American cities.
SIA said it is investing in the new A350 series as part of its commitment to operate a modern fleet. One industry observer said the A350s will allow SIA to have more options when planning routes.
"The A350 is a very flexible aircraft for SIA, they can fly up to 10-12 hours, and they can also fly regionally," said Mr Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor for Flightglobal. "And from a route planning perspective, from a traffic planning perspective, it really gives them an opportunity – they can use it for long haul, they can use it for medium haul. Its a very flexible aircraft, that the kind of thing an airline like SIA would need."
SIA will use its first A350 planes for the Amsterdam route, with three to four more destinations to be announced in the coming months. It expects to take delivery of the new planes starting in January 2016, with service scheduled to commence in April.
A total of 11 A350 planes are expected to be delivered in the first year of operation.
SIA's ongoing fleet renewal comes as it faces strong competition on long-haul routes.
"The long haul market is very challenging for airlines in this part of the world right now," said Mr Waldron. "Because the Middle Eastern carriers have come in with a very strong pricing proposition carrying travellers to the Middle East. But by introducing a new aircraft like the A350, airlines like SIA will be able to actually fly long haul to Europe and be that much easier to make profits on these types of long haul routes."
SIA recently introduced its Premium Economy class on flights to Delhi and Mumbai. This cabin class will be also made available on the A350s.